I had no idea chili could be so divisive. I knew Kansas and Texas (and Tennessee?) would fight to the death over barbecue. I've heard Chicago deep dish loyalists talk smack about New York thin crust fanatics. But I had no idea about chili.
A few weeks ago several food writing colleagues entered into a protracted online discussion over the relative merits of different chili styles. With beans or without? (Um, with?) With ketchup or without? (Um, without?) Turns out there's a Chili Appreciation Society International (International!) with a vast membership, and outposts called "pods" (pods?) in 25+ states. They hold over 500 cook-offs (500!) every year.
Apparently chili is a Very Serious Food.
I did not know this.
So when one of my colleagues asked for our favorite chili recipes, I commented thus:
The internets went silent.
All of them.
I don't know if the fan on my computer always cycled so loud, but it's all I could hear after submitting my email because no one replied to my offering.
Had I done something wrong? Crossed a line? Broken a taboo? Offended the gods?
All of the above?
I stand by my chili. It's zesty, it's vegetarian, it's wholesome, and it freezes beautifully.
I'm starting my own society. The wheat berry black bean chili society.
Membership is open.
Recipe for Zesty Wheat Berry Black Bean Chili
I developed this recipe for EatingWell magazine, and it ran in their March/April 2007 issue. (It's still online here.) Remember to have your wheat berries cooked and ready to go before you begin. If using frozen, cooked wheat berries, just toss them directly in the chili and heat through (no need to defrost).
Makes 6 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 cups cooked wheat berries
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, diced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, chipotle to taste, broth and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through, about 5 minutes more. (If using frozen wheat berries, cook until thoroughly heated.) Remove from the heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish each bowl with avocado and cilantro.